(NEW YORK) — A plurality of Americans back what the United States is doing to support Israel in the war against the Islamic militant group Hamas and an additional 29% think the country should be doing even more.
Still, a majority of the public also disapproves of President Joe Biden’s handling of the conflict as well as a range of other issues, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, a warning sign for him as he launches his bid for reelection.
At least 1,300 people have died and 3,227 others have been injured in Israel after Hamas launched a devastating, gruesome attack from several fronts on Oct. 7, Israeli authorities said. Militants entered homes, killed families and took more than 100 captives back to Gaza, including women, children and the elderly. They also gunned down hundreds celebrating at an Israeli music festival.
In Gaza, at least 2,215 people, including 724 children, have been killed as Israel has launched retaliatory strikes and other operations, with an estimated 8,744 more injured and those numbers expected to climb — and tens of thousands more displaced, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
According to a U.N. statement on Saturday, almost 1 million people have been displaced in Gaza.
Following Hamas’ attack, Israel also cut off Gaza’s access to electricity and water supplies — a move that will not be reversed until scores of hostages are returned home, said Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz. Members of the Israeli special forces entered Gaza on Friday in efforts to locate and free hostages, according to an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson. Officials in Israel say they have alerted 120 families that their loved ones are located in Gaza.
Forty-nine percent of Americans say the United States is doing “about the right amount” to support Israel in its war with Hamas, while 29% say the U.S. is actually doing too little, per the latest ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted using Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel.
Only 18% say the U.S. is doing “too much” in the aftermath of the attacks. Republicans are much more likely to say the U.S. is doing too little to support Israel. Fifty percent of Republicans say this compared to only 12% of Democrats and 26% of independents. Most Democrats (65%) and independents (52%) think the U.S. is doing the right amount to help.
These views differ from another major international conflict going on now, Ukraine’s war with Russia. In this case, one in three Americans say the U.S. is doing too much to support Ukraine. A plurality (42%) says the U.S. is doing “about the right amount,” while 22% believe too little is being done. On this issue, Republicans are more likely to say the U.S. is doing too much. A plurality of Republicans (44%) feels this way, compared to only 15% of Democrats and 34% of independents. Most Democrats, 57%, say the U.S. is doing “about the right amount” to help Ukraine compared to 35% of Republicans and 40% of independents.
On Friday, the IDF called for all residents of Gaza to evacuate their homes and “move south for their protection” to an area south of the Gaza River. Yet that suggestion has been met with staunch humanitarian opposition. The U.N.’s Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters that same day that the push to evacuate was “extremely dangerous and, in some cases, simply not possible.”
A similar appraisal has been made by the World Health Organization, which said a mass evacuation “would be disastrous for patients, health workers and other civilians left behind or caught in the mass movement.”
The White House and senior Biden administration officials have continued to offer unequivocal support of Israel in the wake of Hamas’ attack. During an economic address in Philadelphia Friday, Biden reiterated that support while also addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis within the Gaza Strip.
“At my direction, our teams are working in the region including communicating directly with the governments of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab nations and the United Nations to surge support and humanitarian consequences for Hamas’ attack to help Israel,” Biden said.
He continued, “We can’t lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas and Hamas’s appalling attacks. And they’re suffering as a result as well.”
Despite the country’s desire for the current level or increased support for Israel, in line with Biden’s stance, a majority, 54%, disapprove of his handling of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. A little more than two in five Americans (41%) approve of the president’s handling of the issue.
According to a State Department spokesperson on Saturday, 29 Americans have been confirmed dead in Israel. Additionally, 15 U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident of the U.S. are still unaccounted for, the spokesperson said. Biden addressed the ongoing struggle of their loved ones in his remarks as well.
A slight majority (53%) of Americans say the U.S. has a responsibility to protect Israeli civilians, per the new ABC News/Ipsos poll. Conversely, 54% say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to protect Palestinian civilians. An even larger majority (63%) say it’s not the U.S.’ responsibility to work toward Palestinian statehood. Half the country (50%) believes the U.S. does not have a responsibility to ensure peace in the Middle East, while 46% says it does.
When asked which political party they trust to do a better job handling the war, Americans are generally split: 24% say the Democrats, 26% say the Republicans, 12% say both parties equally and 37% say neither party.
That fracture is perhaps due in part to both party’s internal divisions — as progressive Democrats levy criticism of Israel’s government and call for the protection of Palestinians while pleading with the Biden administration to establish a humanitarian channel in the region as Israel’s attacks escalate.
On the campaign trail, Republican candidates are taking aim at former President Donald Trump’s recent remarks that the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is “very smart” while warning of its threat to Israel and knocking top Israeli officials in the process. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, told New Hampshire voters he would not be “throwing verbal grenades at the Israeli leadership” unlike Trump. His former vice president, Mike Pence, also in New Hampshire, lambasted Trump, adding that Hezbollah “aren’t smart, they’re evil.” On CNN, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called the former president “a fool.”
In the wake of the backlash, Trump released a statement saying “there was no better friend or ally of Israel” than he was.
Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill are voicing increasing frustrations for their inability to offer aid, mostly due to the grievances of a small group of House Republicans leaving the body without a speaker.
Heading into a presidential election year, Biden will have to battle low confidence in his leadership across a number of issues. A majority of Americans continue to disapprove of his handling of the economy, crime, climate change, inflation, gun violence, the situation with Russia and Ukraine and immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border. Approval of Biden’s handling of crime and climate change has declined since the January ABC News/Ipsos poll.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted using Ipsos Public Affairs’ KnowledgePanel® October 13-14, 2023, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 518 U.S. adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 25-25-42 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents. See the poll’s topline results and details on the methodology here.
ABC News’ Dan Merkle and Ken Goldstein contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.